HFC Students Get Involved at the 12th Annual Political Issues Convention
HFC and the League of Women Voters (LWV) of Dearborn–Dearborn Heights hosted students from colleges around the region during the 12th annual Student Political Issues Convention on Nov. 6. This year’s event coordinator was HFC professor of political science Robert Yahrmatter. The event itself was held in the Andrew A. Mazzara Administrative Services & Conference Center here on the main campus. Guests were treated to speeches by Senator Debbie Stabenow and Congresswoman Debbie Dingell among others. Others in attendance included state Representatives George Darany and Erika Geiss, and Senators Hoon-Yung Hopgood and David Knezek. The day saw political science students from Oakland Community College, Macomb Community College, Wayne County Community College, HFC, and U of M Dearborn presenting their respective political issues to those in attendance. After the presentations, attendees went on to vote in the caucus rooms to determine which issues would be presented to the sitting panel of guests that included state reps and congress members from Michigan. Students had the option to work the registration table, as a caucus facilitator, host or usher, poster board presenter, issue workshop presenter, or pre-conference support specialists. The caucus facilitators and hosts were students that had been randomly selected to take votes. After the guests watched student presentations they made their way back to the conference center where they gathered in the caucus rooms. At that point they voted for the issues they saw worthy of being addressed by the panel at the end of the event.
Some of the issues that students voted on included the cost of higher education, the national debt, U.S. foreign policy, global warming, and income inequality. Each representative was given time to address the issues with the crowd and prizes were awarded to randomly selected individuals. A highlight included a spirited talk by State Rep. Debbie Dingell who urged the young crowd to take a more active political stance. “Democracy is not a spectator sport,” she cried. The crowd listened intently to her thoughts on young people finding meaning in their lives by becoming more politically active. Those in attendance also had the pleasure of hearing Senator Debbie Stabenow speak. Topics included her maturation as a young adult getting started in politics, her education, and a humorous anecdote about the football game between U of M and Michigan State University (her alma mater).
Dr. Anthony Perry of the Political Science department here is responsible for bringing the event to HFC from Wayne State University where it originally began. According to Perry, the lack of civic participation in young adults is the culmination of a process partly involving the failure of students to become educated on the issues at hand. It was exciting for me to see young people becoming engaged politically and showing interest in the political issues of the day. Maria McCane of Dearborn shared her experience at the convention saying, “I had a great time. To be honest, I was nervous at first but once I got here and started speaking to the other students doing the same thing, I relaxed. We were focused on the issues which are so important and I think everyone had a good time.” Mike DeRome could hardly contain his excitement; “Wow. This was a great experience for me and I’m just glad I took the opportunity to come out and participate today.” Part of the aim of the event was to encourage political engagement in the 18-25 year old demographic. Millennials have typically been less politically active than previous generations and this poses a threat to the democratic process as it exists today. If citizens fail to become politically engaged by their mid-20s, studies shows that they will not become engaged ever. The voting turnout rate among young adults, after spiking up in 2008, went way down in 2010. The Obama campaign did much to push back on that trend but the question we’re compelled to ask is whether or not it was a one time occurrence.